Upgrade Your Fandom

Join the Ultimate Denver Broncos Community!

Denver Broncos' poor offensive-line play exacerbated by a coaching fail

Ken Pomponio Avatar
December 14, 2015



Let’s get the obvious, elephant-in-the-room stuff out of the way first because it’s, well, obvious, elephant-the-room stuff: The 2015 Denver Broncos have a mish-mash, below-average, under-talented offensive line.

The center is a second-year former college walk-on who couldn’t make it off the practice squad a year ago, one guard is a 34-year-old former All-Pro whose best days are in the rear-view mirror and the other guard has battled injuries all season and looks to be miscast in this offensive system.

And then there are the starting tackles – one, nothing more than a journeyman on his third NFL team in three seasons and the other a second-year, third-round pick who has the distinct look of a never-will-be, especially when it comes to pass protection. These tackles, mind you, were slated to be nothing more than backups but have been pressed into action when the franchise’s veteran Pro Bowl left tackle went down with a season-ending torn ACL and the second-round pick was lost for the year with a bum shoulder three games into his rookie season.

The top backups are another journeyman tackle playing with his fifth team in five years and a promising but untested fourth-round rookie.

Broncos Country has seen the games and knows the names.

Add it all up, and the sum of the parts is, well, a mish-mash, below-average, under-talented offensive line.

Credit: Rob Z, Fightposium.com
Credit: Rob Z, Fightposium.com for BSN Denver

That was no more evident than in the second half of the Broncos’ Week 14 game against the Oakland Raiders, when pass-rusher Kahlil Mack moved to the top of the league’s sack chart and perhaps established himself as the front-runner for league Defensive Player of the Year honors – all in one 30-minute swoop.

Mack is a second-year stud, no doubt, as he wasn’t the fifth-overall pick by happenstance. But five sacks, seven quarterback hits and 10 pressures and a plus-13.8 weekly grade by Pro Football Focus – all basically in one half?

Yeah, that happened Sunday at the Authority as Mack went over, around and through the aforementioned Orange & Blue offensive tackles with an embarrassing ease that elicited laughter from former players and analysts alike on the national Sunday-night highlight shows.

But here’s what was even more embarrassing and, most of all, inconceivable: Gary Kubiak and his Broncos’ coaching staff stood idly by and let this happen.

The Raiders came into the contest with a defensive roster that had accounted for 24.5 sacks in 12 games. Mack had nine of them.

Mack is a one-man wrecking crew – a talented, Von Miller-esque wrecking crew – but still only one man. He was the one Oakland defensive player who had the potential to singly sabotage the Broncos’ comeback efforts Sunday, and Kubiak and Co. inexplicably gave him free rein to do so.

Sure, a couple sacks is understandable – Mack and other elite edge rushers typically are going to get theirs regardless – but to watch the same guy wreaking the same havoc series after series was beyond belief.

Where were the sliding protection schemes? The chip blocks? The double-teams?

Anything – something – would’ve been better what Kubiak and Co. did, which was nothing and it resulted in a scoreless second half and a 15-12 loss to a team, which had all of 126 yards of total offense. It was an utter coaching fail, and Brock Osweiler now has been sacked 17 times in 18 quarters.

The baffling lack of adjustments was even more glaring three hours later after the New England Patriots completed their climb back to the top of the AFC standings with a 27-6 win in Houston.

The Texans, as you might’ve heard, have a pretty fair pass rusher of their own in J.J. Watt, who came into the game with an NFL-leading 13.5 sacks. Watt finished the game second in the league with 13.5 sacks after he drew a blank against the Patriots: No sacks, no QB hits.

Watt was playing with a cast on his left hand after he broke it in practice last week, but Bill Belichick and Co. were taking no chances – especially knowing they don’t have the best, most-seasoned or healthiest of offensive lines (sound familiar?) – doubling Watt and sliding protection wherever he lined up.

If only Kubiak and his staff had been a fraction as wise three hours earlier, Watt would still be at the top of the sack charts and the Broncos would be on top of the AFC.

At this point, the Broncos’ sub-standard offensive line is the Broncos’ sub-standard offensive line – Joe Thomas or Ryan Clady aren’t going to be taking reps at Dove Valley when practice resumes Wednesday – but better coaching is desperately needed down the stretch and the playoffs if the Orange & Blue are to avoid going out with another season-ending whimper.



Share your thoughts

Join the conversation

The Comment section is only for diehard members

Open comments +

Scroll to next article

Don't like ads?
Don't like ads?
Don't like ads?